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Section 3: Maintaining the communication loop

Sometimes when you tell people to plan ahead (as we urged in Section 2), they’ll argue that if you start planning too far out, you’ll forget what you decided when the time actually comes to play ball.

If you’re one of those people, we still think you should plan ahead, but we also think you should maintain those relationships you worked so hard to establish with ongoing communication after the first connection occurs. That keeps everyone in the loop longer and gives everyone
time to readjust when you get tossed a logistical curve ball along the way (which invariably happens).

Here’s an example: After the Northern Sun held its initial planning meeting with conference reps, facility staff and community stakeholders in October 2013, and before the event was staged in March 2014, there was an unexpected change in leadership at the Sioux Falls Boys and Girls Clubs.

As it happened, the outgoing executive director didn’t communicate very well with his replacement about how the Boys and Girls Clubs were going to provide posters for teams participating in the upcoming NSIC tournaments. So we had to make up for lost time late in the game to make sure that actually happened. But if we hadn’t set up regular correspondence at the outset, chances are there wouldn’t have been any posters at all.

Would the people attending the tournaments have noticed? Maybe not, but it certainly would have been an opportunity lost. Anyone who has any experience in event management knows it’s a rare bird indeed when an event goes off without a hitch. We all know that stuff happens, and you need to communicate regularly to ensure that the “stuff” never hits the fan!

Once you conduct your site visit or have that initial meeting between conference reps and community stakeholders (hopefully you can have that meeting during the site visit), you should plan on the contacts/liaisons

you established corresponding with their respective stakeholders regularly in the months leading up to the event.

If your event is in March, for example, then you ought to start corresponding regularly in January. And they don’t have to be in- person meetings, either. Just a phone call or email exchange every couple of weeks should be enough to maintain the relationship and keep everyone in the loop – and allow you
to troubleshoot when necessary.

What should you address in these exchanges? Well, whatever correspondence you set up between the conference/institutional reps and the designated organizational contacts should be designed to review the run of show and make sure things are still OK as planned. Each time you touch base, make sure you know – and that they know – what you’re going to do when the time comes to execute. (Check out our sample agenda for these sessions.)

Remember, it’s hard to over-communicate. The last thing you want to hear after something goes wrong is, “Well,
that wouldn’t have happened if I had known about it.” Or worse: “Well, that wouldn’t have happened if you had told me about it.” Yikes.

Don’t worry that you’re “nagging” your contacts with this regular correspondence, either. They have enough to do as it is, and they’ll appreciate you taking the communication reins!